Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Speechless (orig. Sin Palabras) [2012]

MPAA (PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing

Speechless (orig. Sin Palabras) [2012] (written and directed by Ana Sofia Osorio and Diego Fernando Bustamante) is a small yet poignant full-length feature Colombian film that played recently at the 29th Chicago Latino Film Festival.

Raul (played by Javier Ortiz) is a young artist studying at the University in Bogota, Colombia.  To make ends meet, he works at a small store front hardware store.  When business is slow, he draws.  He's also mourning the departure of his girlfriend, who had departed some time earlier (and perhaps with bigger plans) for Germany.

Well one day, after opening-up shop and chitchatting with the owner, who wants to get over said girlfriend and set him up with a niece of hers, Raul notices a young Chinese woman (played by Xuan Liao) about his age (late teens to early 20s) sitting quietly and rather sadly on a bench across the street by a Chinese owned store that was apparently closed for inventory. (At least that's what the placard on the door indicated). 

After some time, noticing that she didn't seem to be going anywhere, he asks his boss' permission and goes over to her to see if anything is wrong.  She doesn't speak any Spanish, and he doesn't speak any Chinese.  By signs, however, he asks her if she's hungry  -- she indicates no -- and introduces himself as Raul.  She nods acknowledging his gesture but also indicates that she'd like to be left alone.

Well a few more hours pass, it's about lunch time and she's still there.  So Raul goes over to her, smiles and through signs, asks her if she's hungry.  She indicates no, but also responds to him saying "Raul" and then pointing to herself says Lian. 

In the conversation by signs, he convinces her to get-up with him anyway.  So they get up and start walking.  Above all, he thinks of taking her to a Chinese restaurant where he could find somebody to talk to her so that he'd better understand what she needs.  Alas, as we would quickly remember here in the United States as well, the restaurant is run by a Cantonese family (from Southern China) and she's from the north hence speaking Mandarin rather than Cantonese.  However, Raul gets a number from them of who to call to get her some help.  He also is told by one of the family members running the restaurant that Colombia is actually a transit point for Chinese trying to enter into the United States illegally.  (The director Ana Sofia Osorio explained after the movie that a lot of Chinese travel from China to Paris (because France doesn't require a visa for Chinese travellers) and then to Ecuador (because of all of the countries in South America only Ecuador requires no travel visas).  Then the Chinese would sneak into Colombia and then be transported by either boat along the Pacific Coast to California or perhaps by plane/boat across the Caribbean to parts in the Eastern United States).  Raul is told that the men taking this journey are generally put to work in Chinese restaurants across the United States, while the women work either in restaurants, or, often enough, work as prostitutes.

Why was she suddenly on the streets alone?  Well something must have happened.  It becomes, however, clear that Lian really wanted to go to the United States.  As they walk back to the hardware store, they pass by a travel agency.  There's a picture of the Statue of Liberty there.  She stops, points to the statue and smiles.  Then pointing to herself and then to the Statue of Liberty again, she says in Engish: "America ... everybody happy."

But Raul knows that she's probably going end up becoming a prostitute there.  Does she know that?  Does she care?  Is she willing to accept that as the price of going there?  Neither he nor the audience ever really know.

The number that the person at the Chinese restaurant gave him was for a group of Chinese cayote's (smugglers) who'd take her (for the money that she had or would owe) to America.  The question then becomes: Should Raul take her there (to those people)?  And then does Lian really know what awaits her if she rejoins the group (or perhaps another group) to take her to the States?

The rest of the film ensues...

It's a fascinating film and one that I'd recommend to anyone who's been interested in the topic of human traficking.  Finally, after the film I asked the director how/if the film will become available in the United States in the future.  She answered that sometime in May 2013 it should become available through iTunes.

Again, this is a very simple film but with a very clear message.  Good job! ;-)

 << NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you ;-) >>

No comments:

Post a Comment